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Laser Engraving & Cutting

A guide to PPLD's laser engravers/cutters

What is Center Engraving?

Center engraving is a technique of manually setting the starting position of the laser cutter. Normally, the laser cutter treats the upper left corner of the bed as the starting position, however the lens can be moved to any place on the bed.

When to Use Center Engraving

While center engraving is unnecessary for most projects, there are several situations where measuring from the upper left corner is not ideal.

  • The object does not have edges at a perfect 90 degree angle
  • The object has over-hanging edges that cannot be pushed against the rulers
  • The image needs to be placed in a very precise position, but it is not easy to measure the exact distance from the edge

Center engraving will work on any project, however in most cases it will be faster and easier to align the material and images to the upper left corner.

Important Notes About Center Engraving

  • Center engraving does not produce any different results than - and will use the same power & speed settings as - the standard method of engraving.
  • Despite the name, center engraving works with vector cutting as well.
  • The engraving will still start at the bottom or top of the image, however the position of the laser will still mark the specified center point of the image.

Setting Up Center Engraving

Software setup

First, set the software workspace size to be the size of your image, not the size of the material. Center the image in the workspace and click print, and then open the Epilog driver settings. All of the settings for speed, power, DPI, etc. will be the same as you would normally use. The piece size in the Epilog settings should always be the size of the workspace in the software program, so set it to match those dimensions.

Under Options (lower left section of the General tab), check "Center-Engraving." This will set the machine to use a different point as the origin. In the drop-down menu below, you have four options for a new origin point.

  • Center-Center: The dead center of the image, both horizontally and vertically
  • Top-Center: Horizontally centered, but at the very top of the image
  • Left-Center: Vertically centered, but at the left edge of the image
  • Page-Center: Centered relative to the page, not the image.

Center Engraving options on Epilog

Note that all of the options will give you the same results, the only difference is what point is used to mark the location of the image. Which one works best is a matter of personal preference, the particular image, and the material being used. Send the job as you normally would.

Make sure the job name on the machine's display has an asterisk (*) at the end. If it doesn't, it was not set up for center-engraving.

Hardware setup

Place the material in the laser cutter - it does not matter where on the bed, however if there is a distinct top or side to the material, it is usually important that it is parallel to the top/side of the laser cutter bed. Now it is time to move the lens into position.

For the Helix (Library 21c)

  1. Press the Pointer button to turn on a red-dot pointer
  2. Press "X/Y Off" and then "Go" to unlock the lens carriage
  3. Move the lens so that the red dot is directly over where the chosen part of the image (center-center, top-center, left-center) will be.
    1. When moving the lens vertically, slowly push against the blue crossbar that says Epilog
    2. When moving the lens horizontally, slowly push the metal lens holder. Do not touch the mirror or either side of the lens.
  4. Once the lens is in position, press "Set Home" and then "Reset"
  5. The machine can now be operated normally, so press the "Go" button to begin the job.

For the Zing (East and Sand Creek)

  1. Press the pointer button to turn on the red-dot pointer
  2. Press X/Y Off to unlock the carriage
  3. Gently slide the laser carriage so that it is where you want
  4. Press Go

Next Steps

Once the job is complete, the lens will return to the position it was moved to, so if you have more projects that will use that position as the origin, you can send them and continue as normal. If you need to move the lens to a new position, simply unlock it and move it as you did before. Note that it is faster and generally easier to move the material than it is to move the lens, so if possible simply slide the material around until it is lined up for the next project.

If you are done with center engraving and need the lens back in the upper left corner, rather than move it manually, you can have the machine re-align itself:

For the Helix (Library 21c)

  1. Press "Maintenance"
  2. Press down until the display says "Restore Home"
  3. Press "Go"

For the Zing (East and Sand Creek)

  1. To reset Home Position, press “X/Y Off” key and “Reset” key simultaneously